The film opens on Mrs. Henderson, played by the indomitable Judi Dench as an imperviously imperious lady of vast wealth and even vaster arrogance, dealing with all the troublesome nonsense of burying her husband. Having spent most of her life in India, she seems at odds in prewar London, with the money to do practically whatever she wants but no patience for the typical pastimes of the upper-class widow (needlepoint, charities, and so on). On a lark, she decides to buy the decrepit Windmill Theater and is well into refurbishing it before realizing she doesn't really know what kind of shows she'll put on. That's where Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) comes in. A crusty old showbiz type with nice suits, big cigars, and even bigger ideas, Van Damm realizes what he's up against when Henderson announces to him, "Of course you're Jewish - look at you!"
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The aforementioned two women are Christine (Joely Richardson) and Lea (Jodhi May), close-knit, questionably sane sisters employed as maids for the domineering Madame Danzard (Julie Walters). The girls slave for low wages, and what they do earn is inevitably taken by their greedy mother. The theme of "All they have is each other" is truly beaten over your head in no uncertain terms. When things start to get bad, the maids turn to the film's other theme for solace: "There's no problem a little incest can't cure." When things get their worst, only wholesale slaughter will do.
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Gangster No. 1 feels like pieces a bunch of other, better movies slapped together -- GoodFellas' musical selections, the violence from American Psycho and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a dash of any Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie style of editing, Malcolm McDowell in a performance recalling A Clockwork Orange. Some of it's fun, but it just isn't original or creative.
Continue reading: Gangster No. 1 Review